Sep. 22 2015
WASHINGTON, DC – Testifying before Congress in April, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell set a goal of this summer for issuing a final rule extending the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to electronic cigarettes, cigars and other currently unregulated tobacco products. Today is the last day of summer, and the final rule has yet to be issued. In fact, there is no sign that the FDA has sent the rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review, indicating that its release is not imminent.
The Administration’s continuing delay in issuing this long-overdue rule is inexcusable and puts the health of our nation’s children at risk. In the absence of regulation, youth use of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed, along with poisoning cases involving the nicotine liquids used in these products. E-cigarettes and little cigars are being marketed using slick tactics and an assortment of candy and fruit flavors that clearly appeal to kids. We cannot afford more delays that allow tobacco companies to keep targeting kids with a new generation of tobacco products.
It has already taken the FDA and the Administration far too long to act. The FDA announced its intention to regulate all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, in April 2011, but did not issue a proposed rule until April 25, 2014. Nearly 17 months later, it has yet to issue a final rule, missing a published deadline of June 2015 and Secretary Burwell’s stated goal of this summer.
Recent trends underscore the urgent need for action:
E-cigarette use by youth has exploded. According to the latest government survey, youth e-cigarette use tripled from 2013 to 2014 and surpassed use of regular cigarettes. Among high school students, current (past-month) e-cigarette use rose from 4.5 percent to 13.4 percent. The CDC estimated there were 2.4 million youth e-cigarette users in 2014.
Cigar use among teens remains high. In 2014, high school boys smoked cigars at about the same rate as cigarettes (10.8 percent for cigars and 10.6 percent for cigarettes). Cigars are the most commonly used tobacco product among African-American high school students, who smoke cigars at nearly twice the rate of cigarettes.
E-cigarettes and little cigars are sold in a variety of candy and fruit flavors. As one study found, e-cigarettes are available in more than 7,000 flavors, including flavors such as gummy bear, cotton candy and bubble gum that clearly appeal to kids. While federal law prohibits candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes, manufacturers have skirted this prohibition by introducing an array of cheap, sweet cigars.
Poisoning cases involving liquid nicotine have skyrocketed. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, poisoning calls involving e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine increased 14 fold between 2011 and 2014, from 271 to 3,783. So far this year (through August 2015), there have been 2,209 cases.
E-cigarettes are being marketed with the same tactics long used to market regular cigarettes to kids, including celebrity endorsements, slick TV and magazine ads that portray e-cigarettes as fun and glamorous, and sponsorships of race cars and concerts.
The health and well-being of our nation’s children are endangered by every additional day of inaction by the FDA and the Administration. The time for regulation of all tobacco products is long past due.